We have a number of collections deposited by private individuals and organisations, including the records of local businesses and solicitors. Some of the collections relating to prominent families and estates in West Sussex are internationally important. They include the following collections, but there are many others at the Record Office.
Blunt Manuscripts (Wilfrid Scawen Blunt MSS)
This collection of Blunt's correspondence covers the period 1855-1922. It reflects the many facets of a gifted, controversial maverick. He is best remembered as a poet - notably for his sonnets and lyrics - but his interests and activities extended far beyond the literary world.
An indefatigable traveller, especially in the Middle East and India, he became an early and eloquent advocate of anti-Imperialism. His support for Irish nationalism kept him constantly involved in political controversy.
His philandering with a large cross-section of the ladies of the British upper classes, married and unmarried, was legendary. He was married for 37 years to Lady Anne Lytton, Byron's granddaughter, who shared his passion for travel, literature and horses. Together they built up the Crabbet Arabian Stud, which was unparalleled in this country.
Blunt's correspondents reflected all these aspects of his life. The collection here contains letters from several hundred correspondents, including major figures in the literary world and in English, Irish and Middle Eastern politics. There are series of letters from:
- Arabi Pasha
- Alfred Austin
- Hilaire Belloc
- Lord Cromer
- RB Cunninghame-Graham
- Lord Curzon
- John Dillon
- Lord Alfred Douglas
- General Gordon
- Frederic Harrison
- WH Hudson
- Henry Labouchere
- Shane Leslie
- Wilfrid Meynell
- John Morley, "Ouida", Ezra Pound
- John Redmond
- Lord Salisbury
- CP Scott
- Herbert Spencer
- WT Stead, together with individual letters from a host of other well-known names.
Readers should bear in mind the fact that Blunt rarely kept copies of his side of the correspondence. It should also be noted that a large collection of his more personal papers are held in a separate collection at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Buckle Papers (Admiral Matthew Buckle)
The Buckle Papers are likely to be of considerable interest to students of British naval history in the 18th and 19th centuries. They include the papers of several high-ranking naval officers who achieved great distinction during some of the most famous naval campaigns in British history.
Perhaps the most celebrated member of the family was Admiral Matthew Buckle. He entered the navy at the age of 13 in 1731, and was appointed to his first command, as Captain of HMS Russell, in 1745. The country was then at war with France and Spain, and in 1747 Captain Buckle won national fame by capturing a Spanish man-of-war, the Glorioso, off Cape St Vincent.
During the Seven Years War of 1756-63 he served as Flag-Captain to Admiral Sir Edward Boscawen in HMS Namur, and took part in the capture of Louisburg and in the battle of Quiberon Bay. His career is unfolded in a fine series of log books in which he entered details of the voyages he made and the campaigns in which he fought.
In the following century Matthew Buckle's grandson, Claude Henry Mason Buckle, enjoyed a similarly successful naval career, and himself rose to the rank of Admiral. As commander of a new steam sloop, HMS Growler in the 1840s, he was employed in the suppression of the slave trade off the west coast of Africa, and the diaries that he wrote on board that ship record the capture of Spanish slave ships and the sacking of hostile native villages.
In the Crimean War of 1854-56 he served as Captain of HMS Valorous, and saw action in several of the more important naval engagements against the Russians. Another member of the family, Charles Matthew Buckle, also served as Lieutenant aboard HMS Vengeance, and the family papers include detailed letters written to his parents in which he describes the operations in the Black Sea and Crimea, including the celebrated assault on the Russian naval base of Sebastopol.
On retiring from active service in 1881, Charles Matthew Buckle embarked on a number of pleasure trips to Europe, North America and the Holy Lands. He recorded his observations in a series of travel journals which provide a fund of information on the topography, economy and social life of the countries he visited. The diary of the American tour in 1885 is particularly interesting, containing notes on his visits to the major cities in the United States and to other places of interest, such as Niagara Falls and Yellowstone National Park, and the text is liberally illustrated with photographs, postcards, and cuttings.
Cobden Archives (Richard Cobden)
West Sussex Record Office is privileged to have custody of a substantial part of the archives of Richard Cobden, the 19th century politician and statesman, who is remembered for his contribution to the Repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 and the Anglo-French Commercial treaty of 1860.
Cobden was born at Dunford in the parish of Heyshott, near Midhurst, in 1804, and returned there later in life to build the present Dunford House, now the property of the National Council of the YMCA. He died in 1865 and was buried in the churchyard at neighbouring West Lavington.
The records held at Chichester were deposited by the Trustees of Dunford House and by Mr R Cobden-Sanderson, grandson of Richard Cobden. They are catalogued in 2 volumes, The Cobden Papers, edited by F W Steer (WSCC, 1964) and The Cobden and Unwin Papers, edited by Patricia Gill (WSCC, 1967). Other collections of Cobden Archives are held elsewhere, notably in the British Library.
The archives in the Record Office include accounts, diaries and journals, articles and speeches, scrapbooks, photographs and drawings. The strength of the collection lies in the extensive correspondence of Cobden with fellow free-trade campaigners such as John Bright and leading politicians, such as Gladstone and Peel.
Of particular importance amongst the other family papers are the records of Cobden's third daughter, Emma Jane Cobden, whose various causes included women's suffrage and the defence of free trade. The papers include correspondence and scrapbooks of ephemera relating to various political events during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Goodwood Archives are the papers of the Dukes of Richmond and Gordon and their estate, centred on Goodwood near Chichester.
The 1st Duke, the natural son of King Charles II by Louise de Keroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth, purchased a hunting lodge at Goodwood in 1695, and by the time of the 3rd Duke the estate had grown to some 17,000 acres in Boxgrove, Westhampnett, East Dean, Singleton, Tangmere, Lavant and West Itchenor.
Today the estate has a world-famous racecourse and motor racing circuit, and is the home of the annual festival of speed. The estate archives are chiefly notable for the fine late 18th century estate surveys by Thomas Yeakell and William Gardner.
The family holds 4 Dukedoms - Richmond, Lennox, Gordon and Aubigny - and the surviving archives reflect this. They include the correspondence of the 5 Dukes of Gordon and an extensive archive of the Aubigny estates.
The correspondence collections are especially rich for the 2nd Duke (1701-1750, Master of the Horse, literary and artistic patron and Newcastle's agent in the county), the 5th Duke (1791-1860, member of Grey's reforming ministry and later a leader of the protectionist party) and the 6th Duke (1818-1892, leader of the Conservative party in the House of Lords and first Secretary for Scotland). A fine series of accounts with local and London trades survive for the first three dukes.
Note on access: No family papers after the death of the 7th Duke in 1928 may be consulted without permission of the Trustees of the Goodwood Collection, which should be requested in writing through the Record Office; estate papers are closed for 30 years.
Petworth House Archives
The Petworth House Archives form the largest private collection under the care of West Sussex Record Office. The house and the estate have been in continuous ownership for 800 years, though the majority of the archives date from the late 16th century onwards.
The estate belonged to the Percy Earls of Northumberland, from whom it descended to the Wyndham family. At various times the family have owned estates in other counties including Yorkshire and Cumberland, for which there is a separate archive at Cockermouth Castle.
The estate archives are very extensive, with particularly fine maps and surveys made in the early seventeenth and late 18th and 19th centuries. There is a good survival of manorial records for the West Sussex and Yorkshire estates.
The family were the major employers in the local area and wage books survive from the late 16th to mid-20th centuries, though not all series are complete. The archives also contain a fine series of tradesmen's bills from the late 18th and 19th centuries, which include bills from leading London suppliers.
Four volumes of the catalogue of the Petworth House Archives have been published in conventional form; Volumes I and IV are unfortunately out of print, but Volumes II and III are available to purchase. A fifth volume has been completed, but this is only available online.
Notes on access: Since the archives are kept at Petworth House, where no access is allowed, all documents must be ordered at least 4 weeks in advance so that they can be brought back to the Record Office for consultation. We may, on occasion, need to limit the number of items that we bring back from Petworth. No post-1945 documents may be consulted without the express permission of Lord Egremont, the owner of the archives. Permission should be requested through the Record Office. You will also need to obtain permission in advance, through the Record Office, if you wish to obtain a scan or photograph.
Available to buy
We have various books available to buy about these collections. Find out more about the Record Office shop.